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January 07, 2013


Silas Champion

A lot of good choices on that list. I would include the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer. It is a series about a girl making her way through various adventures in the early 1800's. Fast moving, interesting characters.


Thank you so much! I was just asking a friend if she could think of some "girl" books I could read with my daughter. I can't wait to introduce her to your beautiful novels!


I remember when I *made* my son read Princess Academy and he loved it, but he boldly threatened me if I ever told his friends he liked it. :) Sigh.


My two cents: I haven't read a third of these. Shame upon my house!

Also: I think Coraline by Neil Gaiman is fabulous. Best creepy book ever. Didn't like Bloody Jack, though...wayyyyyy too much sex for a middle grade book. Also, pedophiles.


My son loved the Penderwicks books.


Well, I don't have any children, but my brother liked the Hunger Games and we're both reading The City of Bones series by Cassandra Clare, which he seems to enjoy. They're definitely highschool books.

Thanks for this list. I need to check some of them out.

Amelia Loken

Shannon Messenger's debut "Keeper of the Lost Cities" (2012) was Awesome! Had elements that reminded me of early Harry Potter series. Sequel comes out next fall. Can't wait! (Middle Grade)

"The Shifter" by Janice Hardy and the rest of the trilogy, "Blue Fire" and "Darkfall" (For older tweens and teens). Fantasy - Girl has healing powers but can't use them like everybody else...others want to use her as a weapon. Exciting!


Dragonflight (and series) by Anne McCaffrey. I'm not sure I'd classify them as Middle Grade. YA/Teen is more likely if only because of the "mature" content. Her books that would be more appropriate for Middle Grade would be the Harper Hall books: Dragonsong, Dragonsinger, Dragondrums, where the content is mostly non-existant. I was introduced to them in the 4th Grade and have worn the covers off my little paperbacks that I bought with my paper route money.


I read Jessica Day George's Tuesdays at the Castle to my nine and almost eleven year old brothers, and they loved it.

(I've also convinced almost eleven to read PA--but only if his brother couldn't see. We're working on it.)


My son's still in chapter books, but he really loves the Ivy and Bean books (and Junie B. Jones) despite the female leads.

Jo in OKC

Divergent & Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Cinder (Scarlet is out soon!) by Marissa Meyer
The Demon King (and series) by Cinda Williams Chima
Hawksong (and series) by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. First book is probably equal parts boy & girl main characters. Books 2 & 3 are more male main character. Books 4 & 5 have more female main characters.


The Fablehaven books are amazing for any age. Definitely recommended. Anything by Brandon Mull, actually. :)


I think someone said this somewhere up there ^ but the Penderwicks, definitely. They were a read-aloud for my little sister, but my brother listened and finally stole it because I was reading too slow for his likes!

Ashley R.

I would also like to add The Dragon Slipper series by Jessica Day George. They have enough action for any one to enjoy. :) Middle Grades.

Ashley R.

I have slowly been working on my younger brother to read girl books, and thankfully, he isn't too ashamed to admit that he likes them. Still working on "hard-core" girl books. :)


This is a great post! I would add Above World (series) by Jenn Reese, Flora Segunda (series) by Ysabeau Wilce, and The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand to the MG list. As well as Roald Dahl's Matilda!


I'd say the 12 Dancing Princesses series by Jessica Day George (Princess of the Midnight Ball, Princess of Glass, and Princess of the Silver Woods) are good to add, Ella Enchanted too by Gail Carson Levine. Plus, Cinder and Ella by Melissa Lemon. Hmm...Pride and Prejudice is good but I don't know that boys'd like that all that much.

Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

Terrific list, Shannon! I've read a lot of these, and will have to check out the ones I haven't read.

Just one minor quibble: Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonflight" is definitely NOT middle grade. Perhaps you were thinking of "Dragonsong" and "Dragonsinger" by the same author?

How about Joan Aikin's "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" (and series) for middle grade/young teens? And for teens, Elizabeth Marie Pope's "The Perilous Gard." Oh, and for older teens: The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King. It's an adult book, not YA, but my daughter loved it when I read it to her at 15 or so.

Xaveria Mayerhofer

I would also add Maximum Ride by James Patterson. the title character is a girl, and actually my brother introduced me to the series. It's really good. I would put it in the teen list though.


Another great book for teens is "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. It is one of my favorites and is a historical fiction novel. The book also has a great balance of girl and boy main characters.


Ahh Anne McCaffrey! I love her books, especially Dragonsinger!


I am so happy to see The Books of Pellinor on there. I love those books, and I so rarely come across any one who's heard of them let alone read them. Come to think of it, this is the first time I've come across them without looking.


Thanks!! Also Every other book you've written.


Yay, I'm not the only person who's read about Claudette Colvin!
Having spent three years in middle school, I can tell you every self respecting boy has read Hunger Games


I am Number Four series - Pittacus Lore
Great balance of male and female. Also an exciting series :) love them.


Thanks for this. I often think the issue is the cover! Many good boy books have girl style covers...

Andromeda Jazmon

How about "Fire in the Streets" by Kekla Magoon for YA. It's all about the Black Panthers in Chicago in the 60s and has a lot guns. Main character is a girl who wants to be a Black Panther.

Any other books with African American girl main characters?


My son (age 14) just saw me reading Palace of Stone, and immediately asked if it were the sequel to that "other book" and then requested it as soon as I finished. I've actually never had trouble getting my boys (or their friends) to read books with girl protagonists, so maybe the times are a'changing.

'Becca Black

For older teens: the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson.


The first thing that comes to mind is actually Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, and Through the Looking-Glass. Great especially for geeky, mathmatically-minded boys. I read it TO my brother when he was a young teen, and I vividly remember him literally falling on the floor laughing at one point.


In terms of classics, my class had to read Wuthering Heights, and a number of the guys enjoyed it, surprisingly.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd was also popular with everyone in another class (teen).

A number of Gloria Whelan's books may also work, including Homeless Bird, Chu Ju's House, and Listening for Lion (middle grade-ish).

Also, a not super well known book >> Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles, middle grade (although it deals primarily with death and loss).

**Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight is definitely not middle grade. Her Harper Hall subseries, as others have mentioned is definitely way more appropriate, I read them in 5th grade and that was how I was introduced to the rest of the series (did not understand the mature content in the other books at the time, but then I reread them later, and...O.O)

A Cooper

Said it before and I'll say it again - "The Silver Bowl" and it's sequel "The Cup and the Crown" by Diane Stanley. Both excellent middle grade reads - but really they're good for any age.


I LOVE Gracelng and the Books of Pellinor (and yours, obviously). The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices are good for strong, realistic female characters too.


This is a really great list! I'd just like to point out that the author of The Cabinet of Earths is Anne Nesbet, not Nesbit. I also think that teenage boys would really like Something Like Normal by Trish Doller.


My boys really liked The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton.


Oh and also the Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. It's a trilogy and based on Alice in Wonderland but in my opinion much better than the original.

S Blackburn

Thank you for helping me to be more aware about encouraging boys to read "girl" books. I have four boys, 11 and under, and would not have thought to recommend your books to them, assuming that they were too girly for them. Yet now I can see that there is absolutely no reason for them to not read "girl" books. My 14-year-old daughter and I have now recommended your books to my 11-year-old son. He read The Goose Girl and is now into the sequels. He enjoyed them a lot and will probably read your other books after the Bayern books. I'm so glad that he will hopefully be more accepting of all books and not ridicule anyone for what they are reading. Thank you for educating me and my kids as well!


My best friend and I were in the sixth grade when we read some of Tamora Pierce's books. Fantastic. My friend and I read a ton of her books that year, and in the years that followed! She's great, and her stories contain strong characters who demonstrate realistic character growth and personality. I loved them.
I read The Goose Girl in the sixth grade and loved it, too. In seventh grade and 8th grade I read it so many times. And I got the audiobook for River Secrets in 9th grade. I just loved it. Your series helped me grow as a writer and reader. I'm so grateful :)
I hope to one day write books that are worthy of lists like this.


Hi, Shannon!

I stumbled across this site today and thought you might appreciate it. It looks like a site dedicated to books, toys and movies "for smart, confident and courageous girls", as the site puts it. There's a whole page for princesses who actively try things and rescue themselves. http://www.amightygirl.com/mighty-girl-picks/independent-princess I noticed that three of your books made the list! Well done.

By the way, I think I actually snorted out loud when I read "The Actor and the Housewife". I read well above my level as a child and have been hard to surprise for years because I've read so much, but I really enjoyed the story and the two main characters' friendship. I also loved that they DIDN'T fall in love and get married at the end! It's lovely to read something unpredictable.



I like many of those books, but I'm surprised you didn't recommend Chime....its so good and if you like the fault in our stars, you'll like this


Little Women and Anne of Green Gables: personal faves

Pierce Minor

I have had the same worry when recommending books to young guys, especially students. And now the opposite worry, as the author of a "guy" book. lol. I hope the female audience can relate to the universal concepts within my own series.

I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this one yet, but I really like Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. I would call these "guy" books. But fyi, I do agree with you that a good book is a good book and the gender thing is way overrated.


Pierce Minor

Sarah Williams

Awesome! Thanks, Shannon! I have been surprised--and pleased, how many boys didn't hate my book Palace Beautiful. I wrote it for myself as a little girl, but I was a girl that grew up in a house full of boys, so maybe there is a bit of that that comes though.


Samuel Turner

I have read a ton of you books and I am a boy and the books are awesome!

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